Survey Work Underway for Next Wave of Offshore Wind

By TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI News staff

PROVIDENCE — Energy developer Deepwater Wind is mapping the seafloor for proposed offshore wind projects from Massachusetts to Maryland.

This week boats are expected to depart from Quonset Point in North Kingstown to conduct surveys for the South Fork Wind and Revolution Wind energy projects. The South Fork Wind facility would supply electricity to New York. Revolution Wind would deliver power to Rhode Island and Connecticut. Both wind projects are proposed to be built in the federally designated wind area 20 miles southeast of Block Island.

A 132-foot liftboat from the Gulf of Mexico will perform the survey, while a 104-foot offshore vessel will carry equipment and personnel back and forth from Quonset Point to the liftboat. The engineering firm GZA will conduct the survey.

The 15-turbine Skipjack Wind Farm, planned for federal waters some 20 miles offshore between Maryland and Delaware, began ocean-floor surveys during the last week of July. The research will find footings for the massive turbines, each has an electric capacity of 8 megawatts. The geotechnical survey involves five boats and 75 personnel.

The surveys involve engineers, biologists, and archeologists who look for boulders, measure the depth and slope of the seafloor, and map geological and historical features.

Marine biologists alert the crew of marine mammals and other sea life in the area. They search for whales, porpoises, and turtles using monitoring systems such as thermal imaging cameras.

The survey work is expected to last five months.

Richard Fuka, president of the Rhode Island Fishermen’s Alliance, said survey crews notify fishermen when they are in the area and the vessels are easy to spot.

“To my knowledge there hasn't been any issues with that whatsoever,” Fuka said.

The 90-megawatt, 15-turbine South Fork project will connect to the town of East Hampton, N.Y., about 40 miles to the west of the wind facility on the southern shore of Long Island. Providence-based Deepwater Wind would like construction to begin in 2021 so that operations begin in 2022.

The $1 billion Revolution Wind project could have up to 200 turbines and would reach shore with its undersea cable at the Quonset Business Park. Construction is estimated to begin in 2020 and be completed by 2023. So far, 400 megawatts of capacity from the project will go to Rhode Island, 200 megawatts to Connecticut.

The projects require approval from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, with a review by the National Environmental Policy Act that will include the National Marine Fisheries Service, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Coast Guard, and the Department of Defense.

The South Fork project also requires approvals from the New York Public Service Commission, the Department of Environmental Conservation, and the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. Some permits require monitoring and reporting both during and after construction.

The Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council must also approve both the South Fork and Revolution Wind projects.

Transmission cables would be buried 4-6 feet beneath the seafloor. Turbines are typically sited 0.8 miles apart.